When to Use – Who or Whom

Both who and whom are considered pronouns in the English language. However, because of the strict rules that govern the use of the words, most people have completely abandoned their proper use and are simply using who in place of both the object and subject reference. Therefore, it is important to learn about the different uses of both words and to understand the subtle differences in their practice.

  1. Who/Whoever and Whom/Whomever differ in a sentence based on whether you are using them in reference to an object or a subject.
    • As stated before, who should be used in reference to the subject and whom is used in reference to the object. But what is the difference between a subject and an object?
      • The object of a sentence is the person being acted on.
      • The subject of a sentence is considered the person taking on the action.
    • Examples:
      • I kissed Jack. “I” is the subject and “Jack” is theobject.
      • Tory stepped on Paula’s foot. “Tory” is the subject and “Paula” is theobject.
  2. Whom is used when referring to the object
    • Whom is used when referring to the object of a sentence. The object of a sentence is the one that is being acted on.
    • Examples:
      • The sisters, three of whom are unmarried, attended the Sadie Hawkins dance. The sisters are objects; they are not taking on an action. Therefore,whom is used.
      • Sarah is the girl whom I went to college with last year. Sara is the object of this sentence; the subject would be the speaker, “I”. Therefore, whom is used.
      • Whom can we hire to complete this project? The object in this sentence is the hire; the subjects in this sentence are the speakers, “we”. Therefore,whom is used.
      • Allen referred the patient to an oncologist whom he met at a conference in Washington. Allen is the subject in this sentence and the oncologist is theobject. Therefore, whom is used.
  3. Who is used when referring to the object
    • Who is used when referring to the subject of a sentence. The subject of a sentence is the person taking on an action.
    • Examples:
      • The students’ opinions differed as to who they thought might win the student council position. The subject of this sentence is the person who will win; therefore, who is used.
      • Jack is the man who bought that dog. The subject of this sentence is Jack since he bought the dog and performed an action. Therefore, who is used.
      • Who is that pretty girl? The subject of this sentence is the pretty girl, therefore who is used.
      • It was Marko who put that book there. The subject of this sentence, the one taking an action, is Marko; therefore, who is used.
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